Everyone would welcome a hike in these inflationary times, but no one is as lucky as the Members of Parliament who have the option of giving themselves a pay increase any time they wish. While the average person has to wait for his annual increment, the MPs have the privilege of being members of what can be called an exclusive club that caters generously to its members. After waiting, therefore, for a little over four years since the last raise, the parliamentarians have chosen to augment their incomes further in an act of feathering their own nests which is every man’s dream.
For the MPs, it is just a question of constituting a committee which can recommend a doubling of the salary and a 75 per cent increase in the pension of former MPs, as has been done this time. Although the present salary of Rs 50,000 will not be considered much by corporate standards, it has to be remembered that this amount is just the base of a number of other privileges and perquisites.
Among them is the daily allowance of Rs 2,000 for attending the parliamentary sessions, which is also to be raised by an as yet unspecified sum. Considering, however, that some of the sessions transact no business at all because of relentless disturbances and when even the daily sessions are frequently marked by rowdy scenes, walkouts and adjournments, it is open to question whether the MPs should be paid for virtually doing nothing.
The reason, however, why these hikes are generally resented is the poor reputation of the political class as a whole. Had it been otherwise, criticism of the raise might have been more muted. But the impression at present is that parliamentarians have an insatiable desire for more of the good things in life. The fact that the committee wants that the MPs should be entitled to 20-25 free domestic air trips a year underlines this inclination. On the ground, too, an MP and his spouse are entitled to free first class air-conditioned railway tickets.
All of this is in addition to free official accommodation, 5,000 units of free power, 4,000 kilolitres of water and 50,000 free local calls which an MP gets every year. There is little scope for saying, therefore, that the representatives of the people are not well looked after.